Saying he felt a duty to a fellow hiker, a Laguna Niguel lawyer solved a mystery Monday that had stumped a legion of bloodhounds, search-and-rescue teams, volunteers and a helicopter outfitted with an infrared camera.
Richard Brock discovered the body believed to be that of Andre Mayenzet, the 83-year-old man who left June 20 for his usual walk into the hills above his Laguna Beach home and never returned.
"Today I was actually looking for him, and unfortunately I found him," Brock said.
The body was found tangled in some brush just off an animal trail, less than a quarter-mile from Mayenzet's home in Three Arch Bay.
Mayenzet, who suffered from dementia, was a popular character in his neighborhood. Several times a day, the native of Switzerland would put on his safari hat, grab his wooden cane and hike a mile up a steep, winding road to the top of a hill near Badlands Park.
Brock, 61, said fliers posted in nearby neighborhoods spurred him to action. The fliers, created by Mayenzet's daughter, Maria, featured a photo of him and the headline "My Father Has Vanished. Help!"
"I hike a lot and felt some responsibility to look after a fellow hiker," Brock said.
Brock started his search Sunday with his wife on the well-maintained trails, but he suspected that Mayenzet had mistakenly taken an animal path that branched off one of the larger trails.
He said his theory was generated by his own experience with his mother, who had suffered from dementia and became easily disoriented.
So he returned Monday morning to search the animal trails.
"It was the logical place to look," Brock said.
Forty-five minutes later, on a steep trail, Brock spotted a leg protruding from the brush.
"I noted that there were hardly any human tracks on the trail," Brock said. "In essence, he had tried to go down one of the animal trails.... I'm pretty sure he stumbled down into the brush and couldn't get out."
Official identification of Mayenzet was pending late Monday, but Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Darin Lenyi said there was a high likelihood that it was the missing man.